RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s leading inventors has a simple piece of advice for those seeking to emulate his success: “Believe in a bigger goal.”
Professor Nasser M. Al-Aqeeli has written more than 90 research papers and made presentations at 25 international conferences. His findings have pushed the boundaries of science and engineering and lead to major innovations in oil and gas research, biomaterials and renewable energy.
But the path to scientific breakthroughs can be far from easy, according to the professor.
“There are moments when failure enters our lives and we can do nothing to avoid it. But it is there for a reason; it gives you a chance to experience,” he said.
“Believe in a bigger goal, work beyond tiredness and you will surpass these moments. This is what makes your life worth living.”
Many of Al-Aqeeli’s discoveries will help to diversify the Saudi economy, ending its dependence on oil.
One of his unique innovations involved a process to turn used tires into a high-tech glue and industrial coating — a discovery with immediate economic value thanks to a patented formula.
“The beauty of this idea is that we were able to resurrect the value of these tires,” Al-Aqeeli said.
“The scraped tires had lost their maco-value, but our process allowed them to regain micro-value and become an integral part of a usable solution.”
The inventor’s recently established company is working with partners including Dhahran Techno Valley Company and Rapid Product Develop Company to expand and develop the process. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is providing a grant to push the technology forward.
“We are having talks with Saudi Aramco in order to have this patent tested in the field and also improve the processes we have with them,” Al-Aqeeli said.
Al-Aqeeli said he selects his research team of PhD, and post-doctorate and master’s students carefully, and looks for people who are “passionate, patient and knowledgeable in their fields , but who are willing to learn more and continuously learn.”
He tries to create opportunities for team members after they leave the group — many have become professors at universities or have won scholarships to leading international institutions.
“I try to allow room for creativity and always urge them to remember that in research we can always tolerate mistakes.
“We encourage them to do things that might seem dangerous and different because this is where you find innovation. We need to think differently, even if it seems ridiculous. You never know where this can lead you.”
Al-Aqeeli said that in research he is “always ready to accept and deal with failure.
“I always encourage unconventional approaches and I never give up. The greater the risk, the greater the gain,” he said.
Al-Aqeeli also acts as a reviewer for more than 25 prestigious journals, including Nature Scientific Reports, Advance Materials, Journal of Alloy and Compound, Materials and Design, Material Science and Engineering A.